July 08, 2019

Iran enriches uranium past cap and warns only 60 days to save deal
Iran warned on Monday that the last chance for saving the nuclear deal will pass after a 60-day deadline, as the country announced it had increased its uranium enrichment to beyond the cap. Tehran has passed the 3.67 per cent uranium enrichment level set by its landmark 2015 nuclear accord and may enrich at even higher levels, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said on Monday. The move - which takes the enrichment level beyond 4.5 per cent - marks the most serious break from the deal since the US’s withdrawal last year. However, Iran’s enrichment levels still remain well below the 20 per cent threshold needed to develop a nuclear bomb, offering possible room for negotiations with Europe and others to lower tensions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan  Credit: Reuters Abbas Mousavi, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters that Iran would not offer any extension to the “deadline”, which elapses on September 5. The previous day, Iranian officials said the country would take further steps toward the "reduction" of its compliance with the accord - known as the JCPOA - after the deadline. Mr Mousavi said Iran is still open to negotiations with its European partners and expressed hope they would "take steps forward" toward implementing their commitments. Iran is pressuring European partners to find a way around US sanctions and deliver the deal's promised economic relief.  British Royal Marines taking part in the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, Grace 1 in the early hours of July 4, 2019 off the Gibraltar strait.  Credit: AFP A European commission spokeswoman said the EU was "extremely concerned by the announcements made over the weekend." She said the EU was waiting for further information from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which effectively policies the nuclear deal. "We have called on Iran not to take any further steps," the EU foreign affairs service spokeswoman said. "We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse any actions inconsistent with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plain of Action)."  The EU has been in contact with other countries signed up to the deal, which has punitive measures for breaching uranium limits built in.  European diplomats are due to sit down with Iranian delegates on July 15. It is thought they will not want to address the breach of the deal, for fear of jeopardising it, until then. Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, said: “We would still like to find a way to make this deal work … We will wait for independent verification by the relevant international body before deciding what next steps [to take]. But obviously if Iran is breaching this deal, there will be very serious consequences.” It came as Tehran warned the UK over its seizing of an Iranian oil tanker last week, a “threatening act which would not be tolerated,” said Amir Hatami, Iranian Defence Minister. Royal Marines impounded the tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran denies the vessel was headed to Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad is an ally of Tehran. Authorities in the British territory said the tanker can be held for up to 14 days.  "These days we witnessed a threatening act from the government of England in the Strait of Gibraltar against a tanker from the Islamic Republic of Iran," Mr Hatami said. "This is an incorrect and wrong action, an action similar to maritime robbery...certainly these kind of robberies will not be tolerated."



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